Thursday, July 30, 2009

The haves and the have nots

Sorry to talk about Manchester City and Real Madrid again but their super-spending has only highlighted the polarisation between those swimming in cash and those with barely a penny to their name.

While City parade their latest superstar and flaunt their money spare a thought for Livingston fans. The Scottish League division one club, who have substantial debts – including £30,000 to the local council, have begun the process of being wound up after the club’s owner, Angelo Massone, rejected an offer from the administrator to take the club off his hands. This is just three years after a five year spell in the Scottish Premier League came to an end.

This also comes just a year after another Scottish club, Gretna, folded just a couple of years after playing in Scotland’s top division, a cup final and appearing in Europe.

South of the border Luton town were relegated from the football league last season after they were deducted 20 points after failing to satisfy the Football League's insolvency rules and a further 10 for financial irregularities. Fellow League Two sides Bournemouth and Rotherham were also deducted points for breaking football league rules regarding administration. Leeds United faced a similar penalty two years ago in League One.

The tales of financial woe continue up the divisions. Newcastle United, relegated from the Premier League last season, are in limbo as their owner Mike Ashley looks to sell the club. Faced with increasing debts and extortionate player wages the club desperately needs new investment if they are to halt the slide.

But with no new owner on the horizon Ashley has already had to deny rumours United will soon be put into administration. But if they remain a Championship club paying Premier League wages for much longer and if no buyer is found, that is surely the only outcome.

Financial troubles are not restricted to the lower divisions. The Premier League, the world’s richest division, has its fair share of clubs in financial trouble. Liverpool only this week had to renegotiate a £350 million loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, which included paying £60 million back to the bank immediately.

The handful of clubs I have just mentioned are merely the tip of the iceberg and the problem stretches across the divisions, taking in big clubs and small clubs. It seems to me that while the demise of Livingston and Gretna, while only really affecting the communities in which they reside and their small but loyal sets of fans, will not resonate across the footballing world, their stories contain lessons that should be learned.

This begs the question then, will it take a Liverpool or Newcastle United to fall before football finally gets its house in order? It seems a safe football bet that it will.

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